3 things to watch for in the Alaska Legislature

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm •  Published: April 7, 2013
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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The end is near. Right? The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn from its 90-day session on Sunday, with a number of major pieces — oil taxes, budgets, an in-state gas line bill — still in play.

Legislative leaders say they're on track to meet the deadline, but that will mean very long days — and marathon committee meetings, in the case of House Finance — until the end. Some lawmakers have already complained about the blistering pace this year, and questioned whether major bills, like that oil tax overhaul and gas line bill, are getting their due.

Since the Legislature went to the 90-day format in 2008, there has been only one year, 2010, in which there wasn't at least one special session.

In the push to the end, here are three things to watch:

— OIL TAXES: This has been the dominant issue all session, and changes made in the House could either seal the deal or upend a fragile coalition of support in the Senate.

The latest version of the bill advanced by the House Resources Committee could cost the state between $5.7 billion and $6 billion between next fiscal year and 2019. The impact on the high end would be the greatest of any version of the bill that has advanced thus far. The version that passed the Senate by one vote last month had an estimated negative fiscal impact, a mix of the effect on revenue and the operating budget, of $4.5 billion and $5.8 billion through 2019.

The analyses are based on the fall forecast for oil prices and production and cast as a worst-case scenario, given the forecast called for a continued net decline in North Slope oil and the goal of the tax cut is to increase investment and production.

A new forecast was released Friday.

Supporters of a tax cut, including Gov. Sean Parnell, say the state can't afford to stand by and do nothing as oil production continues to decline. Critics share the desire to increase more production, but say this is a dangerous proposal and the wrong way to go.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said he has some concerns with the latest version of the bill, primarily that it might leave the state too vulnerable at low prices. Micciche was one of the 11 who voted for the bill that passed the Senate. There have been no signs of softening among the nine senators who voted against the bill as SB21 has continued to advance.

Rep. Eric Feige, co-chair of the House Resources Committee, said the change in the base tax rate proposed by his committee would put Alaska in the range that the consultants said would make it more competitive.

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